Competitive Intelligence

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What don't CI people help each other more often?

This may seem like a strange topic in a forum designed for interaction and help. (Probably the people here are more likely to help others than the general population of CI professionals.)

Nevertheless, why is it that many CI people tend to share few stories, problem solving techniques and solutions with their peers?

I can think of possible reasons though I don't know if my list is complete. Here is my "one person" brainstormed list.

1. By the nature of the function, CI people are looking for and, in some senses, guarding secrets which cannot be disclosed.

2. There are legal and company restrictions on talking about techniques or processes that are being employed.

3. Maybe the common personality types of CI people are disinclined to share.

4. Perhaps sharing does happen but it is not readily evident (unless you are directly involved).

5. It could be that we lack the structures or frameworks to share. (Competitive Intelligence Ning is an exception.)

6. Some sharing does occur but it could be less applicable to most people's jobs. Maybe the advice or observations are not widely practical.

7. It might be that there is a lack of commonly used definitions of CI problem solving approaches so that vocabulary hinders sharing.

8. Maybe everyone is too busy to help others. This especially could be true if there was little chance for reciprocation.

This is all speculation for me. Do you see a lot of sharing throughout the industry? Are there other reasons that you think might explain when sharing happens and when it doesn't?

Tom Hawes
JTHawes Consulting
Strategically Thinking Blog

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And maybe Competitive Intelligence and industrial espionage have much more in common than CI professionals are ready to admit, Tom? ;-)

Best wishes,

My guess is that helping each other too much would ease out the differences between CI professionals. In other words, we might reason that "helping each other will only make everyone on the CI market better --> more competitors".

Now, this may be a flawed logic, but it's still logic ;)
Thanks for the post Tom and don't necessarily agree with your start point here. Practitioners do indeed share with each other, but the primary environment might indeed be face to face to kick things off. This is why bringing people together through the SCIP chapters or international affilitate models are so important. Furthermore, if you don't know what to do, where do you start?

2. Certainly there may be an element of that, but again this is overcome in the personal interaction be that through a presentation or other engagements. Consider August Jackson's very own CI podcasts as another medium to get people engaged, a sort of virtual presentation without being there!

3. I reckon we would have an even spread of myers briggs profiles across practitioners. Now that would be a great source of insight if the participants were kept anonymous!

4. Could be, but that is not what we are about at

5. Don't think so and it is driven more about people's learning styles than anything else

6. Clearly networking is a bit hit and miss unless given a structure and how it is then delivered and again, everyone's learning styles could be different, noty to mention personalities involved. 4 types of learfning styles if memory services me right, but forget the categories per se

7. Communication is key in this discipline, and that is an art all in its self

8. Let's hope not, make time for personal and professional development. Basic question being, would you invest in yourself? I would like to think 'yes'

Hopefully provided some feedback here. The passionate many indeed will find ways to continue to learn and through the media that best reflects what and how driven by learning styles....this might spur further thoughts or not. Welcome people's feedback and comments.
This is a fantastic question Tom - thanks for asking it.

Only part of the answer is that the busyness (and business, for that matter) of operating at a higher tempo for many of us as economic conditions compelled us to "do more with less" the past few years has meant that we've all had to trim back involvement in extra-official activities. Or at least we are starting to involve ourselves in sharing via more efficient means - forums like the Ning, August's podcast, the bazillion LinkedIn groups, etc. This all simultaneously means that, even as traveling to a meeting is no longer the ONLY way to get advice, make connections, learn and share with colleagues, "facetime" becomes the scarcer resource in relationship building, so physical meetings are, in fact, more valued (and valuable) as well.

But I also think one of the most common traits among intelligence people can be characterized by an acute calculation of risk-reward-ratio tied to a deep sense of prudence and caution about how their actions might impact the future.

In other words, if there's insufficient potential upside reward to warrant risking sharing something - anything, really - then why take on the downside risk of disaster striking ... even if that probability is infinitesimal.

As deep thinkers, I believe we spend a lot of our time going over that potential upside or downside consequence of taking any particular action or another by constantly running scenarios based on what we've seen happen in the past ... whether on behalf of our organizations or in our personal lives. The default outcome is doing nothing, of course, so in the absence of a compelling reason to risk the downside consequences, we tend to keep our mouths shut and hands in pockets.

But sharing is also a quid pro quo - reciprocating help taken by giving it back is based on relationships of trust, so only where those relationships happen, does sharing also happen. That said, I don't think any of us would suggest one can REALLY get a feel for somebody online, at least enough to trust them with your secrets; in the end, the only way to make a decision as to whether you trust someone you've just met, is to look them in the eye, break bread together, and share space before you share your best ideas. That's our reptilian hind-brain saying, "do I or don't I like the way that person carries themselves" - body language and real language, furnish far, far more information for those baser survival instincts to decide trustworthiness with than what some stranger writes in a threaded discussion forum.

So, I think the single, biggest influence on CI people sharing (and this part of my reasoning goes well beyond CI people to pretty much everybody) is that there is insufficient reward in doing so with anyone they haven't made a rigorous trust judgment about. Recognition might feel pretty good, even the opportunity to teach/learn. But think of it this way: unless it's your livelihood at stake, why would you reach out to help if reciprocity cannot be assumed? That's pretty straightforward game theory.

But, maybe that's why you're asking this question now Tom and not a few years ago? As consultants and vendors, in fact, it IS our livelihoods at stake ... ergo, when probable reward (sustaining an income) exceeds probable risk (opportunity cost), you'll see many of our colleagues tending to share more during the consulting phases of their career than in the corporate phases.

Which is, of course, both perfectly natural, as well as, perfectly alright.

Finally, I'll end with the caveat that, gentlemen like my good friend Andrew are the exception, not the rule. Andrew is a leader because he's willing to give out of the sheer enthusiasm he has for his work and the desire for others to share in that same professional joie-de-vivre. And, while I've known many, many colleagues like him - I still believe they are the minority.
Arik, talking about CI people we shouldn't forget about CI academics. They do exist just for sharing knowledge, "semer à tout vent" as Pierre Larousse used to say. Are all of our CI academics present in the group created by Craig S. Fleisher ( )? Do they "sow" every day using those more efficient means pointed by you like, for example, I try to do it at Multilingual Studies at a Distance. Students and Academics of All Countries, Unite! :-) ( )? By the way, I've just ended fall semester at Poznan University of Technology and I'll begin spring semester there within a month.


I think it is the human ego and the primordial instinct for survival that we become selfish.

Each one of us has core competence that cannot be subsituted.

Once we are confident in our abilities and we know that our Insight adds value, maybe people start sharing.

If we operate as a Consortium and brain storm, each one of us will learn from the other.

Wisdom shared helps us respect each other.

Let us learn from the Wisdom of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table:

Who were they?

The Round Table - first mentioned by Wace (1155) in his "Roman de Brut" - was not only a physical table, but the highest Order of Chivalry at the Court of King Arthur. Its members were supposedly the cream of the British military who followed a strict code of honour and service. Sir Thomas Malory outlines this as:

To never do outrage nor murder

Always to flee treason

To by no means be cruel but to give mercy unto him who asks for mercy

To always do ladies, gentlewomen and widows succor

To never force ladies, gentlewomen or widows

Not to take up battles in wrongful quarrels for love or worldly goods

Giovanni Boccaccio in his "De Casibus Virorum Illustrium" further says that the twelve basic rules of the Knights of the Round Table were:

To never lay down arms

To seek after wonders

When called upon, to defend the rights of the weak with all one's strength

To injure no one

Not to attack one another

To fight for the safety of one's country

To give one's life for one's country

To seek nothing before honour

Never to break faith for any reason

To practice religion most diligently

To grant hospitality to anyone, each according to his ability

Whether in honour or disgrace, to make a report with the greatest fidelity to truth to those who keep the annals
Vivek, don't you think that KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE code of honor is a bit outdated? Could Code of the U.S. Fighting Force ( ) be instead of it?


Catch - 22

I get the drift!

But let me deflect.

Competitive Intelligence Knights of the Round Table:

1. Always to flee treason

2. Not to attack one another

3. Never to break faith for any reason

Therefore, what do you think about the following?

Competitive Intelligence Code of the U.S. Fighting Force:

6 Code of Conduct V. a. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

6 Code of Conduct V. d. Actions every POW should resist include making oral or written confessions and apologies, answering questionnaires, providing personal histories, creating propaganda recordings, broadcasting appeals to other prisoners of war, providing any other material readily usable for propaganda purposes, appealing for surrender or parole, furnishing self–criticisms and communicating on behalf of the enemy to the detriment of the United States, its allies, its armed forces or other POWs.
Agree with most everything said, especially the parts I read :)

My two cents is: 20 years ago I knew about 20 people well in terms of a professional network. Today I still know and collaborate with about half of those original 20 people, plus I now have what we all call a virtual network that includes a few thousand people. These social networks enable us to help people in a one-to-one relationship as well as a one-to-many relationship. For example, Tom, your list of eight helped me think about the issue before you even knew I was reading it.

In short... like the TV.... we now have hundreds of channels to spread our time with, rather than just three channels.... so fewer deep sharing opportunities and many more touch points for simple sharing.

By the way, how can I help you?
Funny enough I asked a couple of questions which I sent directly to about 25 people in CI. It was a couple of very simple questions for some research for a piece I was doing.

I got two replies
Tad Sir,

I am NOT as retarded as I look.

In reply to Tom Hawes and Graeme Dixon, I suggested brotherhood of the likes of the Knights of the Round Table.

Please interpret in context.

As far as US Army goes, I will always endorse them.

During my last visit to the US Army War College in 2007, I was permitted by them to feel at home and walk around and drive around unescorted at the US Army War College.

They treated me with Self - Respect and I will never do anything to betray their trust.

It was a very simple gesture of trust. They trusted me and I trust them.

I am not ashamed of endorsing US Army.

Vivek Raghuvanshi


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